By Carol Goolsby
So many signs of spring will greet you if you take a stroll through nature in March. Finding the quintessential “sign of spring” can raise a bit of debate, however.
The Horse Crippler blooms in spring with pink to red-orange flowers in the Quinta Mazatlan native cactus garden.
Perhaps it should just be nature’s show of flowers. Every year at this time, as the sun progresses northward toward its summer solstice, it triggers an age-eternal response in “angiosperms” (the flowering plants) to begin growing flowers. As hungry bees, butterflies, and other insects emerge from their wintertime “sleep”, plants respond by producing nectar near their pollen. The flower petals and scents we humans enjoy so much in springtime are truly meant to be invitations for pollinators to stop by for a meal.
Some particularly spectacular floral blooms are found on our native cacti. The Horse Crippler, Strawberry Pitaya, Mammalaria, and Rainbow Cacti have all recently begun blooming in shades of purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows. Their rich petal colors are as mesmerizing as the intricate arrangement of their pistils and stamens inside the bloom.
A meadow of wildflowers, including bright yellow Cowpen Daisy, celebrates springtime in Ebony Grove.
Out in the meadows and other sunny areas, wildflowers are now blooming. Prickly poppy, Verbena, Bladderpod, Cowpen Daisy, Lazy Daisy, and Tiny Tim have recently bloomed. Their sudden emergence in Quinta’s Ebony Grove looks like they’ve been invited to an annual “Sun over Mazatlan” plant gala.
Once the eyes have finished dancing with the flowers, the heart turns its attention to other compelling signs of spring in the LRGV. This time of year, migratory birds, begin their journeys back to raise their young in protein-rich grain fields up north. Quinta Mazatlan staff ornithologist Erik Bruhnke saw 500 Turkey Vultures flying overhead this week. “Be on the lookout for Scissortail-tailed Flycatchers this time of year,” he mentioned. Over 500 bird species have been seen in the LRGV, many of which migrate through during spring. When they stop through the forest at Quinta Mazatlan, their chorus of birdsong can trip one’s “heart-springs.”
The honey-scented springtime blooms on Guajillo trees lure in pollinators such as this native hairstreak butterfly.
But the “quintessential” sign of spring for me is the sudden, very subtle transformation of a brown gray landscape….into a vibrant forest of green. Trees suddenly seem to come back to life, displaying fresh new leaves in various shades of light green. No more impressive example of this are the long lime-green leaves of the Honey Mesquite Tree. It is this time of year which Mesquite trees seem happiest. Together with the experience of feeling the softness of the new green leaves of the Montezuma Bald cypresses, or marveling at how the Black Willow leaves sway over Ruby Pond, or being fascinated with how the Night-blooming Cereus cacti stalks go from dark green to light as they grow new tips (like multi-colored green popsicles might look), the walk out to Ebony Grove to see the Mesquite trees this time of year…is simply therapeutic.
Or…perhaps…is it that the quintessential sign of spring in the LRGV, is the impact of nature’s beauty…on the human spirit. The sun only passes over this earth in this way for a short window of time every year. Just go outside…and watch what happens…to you! Join us at Quinta Mazatlan for a Songbird Stroll on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8am, Garden Walk on Wednesdays at 10am, Thursday Speaker Series at 6pm, and History Tours on Fridays at 10am. For more information please visit http://www.quintamazatlan.com.